A photograph of Father Greg Boyle, a bald man with a white beard and round glasses, standing in front of the Homeboy Industries headquarters

Belonging Gone Right with Father Greg Boyle

In this episode, we talk with Father Greg Boyle, who is, in the eyes of many people, a holy person—a person whose presence elevates those nearby and revivifies the world with meaning and hope. He is a Los Angelino, a Jesuit priest, and founder of Homeboy Industries, the world’s largest gang intervention and rehabilitation program. In this conversation, Father Greg reflects on some of the highest and most noble aspirations human beings can imagine: that we can live as if everyone is unshakably good; that we belong to each other; and that we all live in the same house.

Show Notes

Father Greg Boyle is a Jesuit priest who served as a pastor in Boyle Heights during the wave of gang-related violence that began in the 1980s and peaked in 1992, when more than one thousand people were killed in the city. While law enforcement and criminal justice authorities turned to suppression and mass incarceration to address gang violence, Boyle and members of his parish and community adopted a radical approach: treating gang members as human beings.

Today, Homeboy Industries employs and trains former gang members in a range of social enterprises and provides critical services to thousands of people each year.

Father Greg is the author of several books, including Tattoos on the Heart, Barking to the Choir, The Whole Language, and most recently Forgive Everyone Everything. He has received the California Peace Prize, has been inducted into the California Hall of Fame, and was named a Champion of Change by President Barack Obama in 2014.

More from Father Greg:


Adam Davis: Hey, this is Adam Davis with The Detour from Oregon Humanities. Sometimes, rarely, in my experience, we have the unusual and unmistakable good fortune to run into people who are what we might call holy. These people are of this world, really fully in the world, and also somehow deeper or more capacious than our world often feels.

They're people who do holy things, or do normal things in holy ways, or talk about regular things in words that restore to the world the glimmer that can sometimes fade away. In this episode of The Detour, you'll hear from someone who is, in the eyes of many people, including me, a holy person. A person whose presence elevates those nearby and revivifies the world with meaning and hope.

This person, Father Greg Boyle, is a Los Angelino and a Jesuit priest and the founder of Homeboy Industries, the world's largest gang intervention and rehabilitation program. He's also the author of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion and Barking to the Choir, the Power of Radical Kinship.

And more than that, Father Greg is a person who lives and speaks clearly about some of the highest, most noble aspirations human beings can imagine: that we can live as if everyone is unshakably good—no exceptions. That we belong to each other—no exceptions. That we all live in the same house. Father Greg joined Oregon Humanities at the Alberta Rose Theatre in Portland, Oregon in March 2024 for a Consider This Conversation as part of a series exploring fear and belonging.

We are delighted to bring you Father Greg for this episode of The Detour.

All right. Thank you all for being here. I have talked far too long. When I mentioned Paul before I noticed that the dedication of the whole language, your book, the whole language is to Paul and one other person and the Tuesday night gang. So I wanted to ask you for starters about that word gang. What's a gang?

Father Greg Boyle: Well, it's a privilege to be with all of you. Well, in that context, the Tuesday Night Gang was a specific group during COVID. We would meet at five o'clock, I think it was once a week. Which seems inconceivable now, but, and it was homies from all, and so there was a lot of my, what I would call, my dearly deporteds, so homies who had gone to prison and, and although they had come in their mother's arms to Los Angeles from, you know, Honduras or, or Mexico or someplace, and then Salvador. And then after doing a stint in prison, no matter how long the stint was, They were deported. 

So there were all these guys that we knew and so we, we would just, meet every Tuesday and then just discuss some, usually it was a scripture passage or something, but it would, it would always go off into some other viaje, you know.

But, a gang is really, you know, somehow you want to, to, to, To find a tribe that ends all tribalism and you want to somehow nurture a community, a place of kinship such that God, God might recognize it and, foster a place of cherished belonging. So, you know, belonging gone wrong is— I don't know if you know the poet Padre Otama who, who, talks about, the troubles in Northern Ireland. And he says, it's really about belonging gone wrong. And I, and when he, I privileged to know him and we were talking. And I said, yeah, that's, that's the same thing with gangs, really. It's belonging gone wrong. And so you, so how do you kind of create and nurture into being this kind of, you know, sense of community that's nurturing and cherishing and leads people to flourishing joy. So that's, yeah, a gang.

Adam Davis: How did you, how did you start thinking about not only gangs, but people who identify as having been in them? Like, was that something, was that a change in you to come to gangs? 

Father Greg Boyle: Yeah, it was never a thing, a decision I made, you know. You know, I was pastor of the poorest And, it was nestled in the middle of two public housing projects, Pico Gardens, Aliso Village. It had the largest concentration of gang activity, in all of Los Angeles. So we had eight gangs at war with each other. So it wasn't like a decision I made. You know, I started to bury kids in 1988. Killed because of gang violence.

Two months ago I buried my 261st, not all from that community, but I know a lot of gang members, so I get asked. So, so it was never, it was always an evolution, it was never, you know I think, like up here where I go, "Yeah, you know gangs is kind of an issue I'd like to kind of wrap my arms around." It was never that. It was, "These are people in my parish."

And in those days, you know, gangs were kind of more indigenous in as much as they actually lived in the neighborhoods that they claimed, "So this is my barrio because I live here. My mom lives here." And then I would say that's mainly not at all true now. In Los Angeles, anyway, that it's kind of a commuter experience. And so where people will, you know, this is my neighborhood, you know. And, you know, when I'm in the projects and I see homies there, and, "What are you doing here?" Well, this is my barrio. And I go, "You've never lived a minute of your life in this neighborhood." But that wasn't true back then, you know. So, and, and I saw them as parishioners because, not because they came to church, but because they lived within the geographic, you know, area that was technically my parish, so.

Adam Davis: And that number that you cited a minute ago is one clear measure of belonging gone wrong.

Father Greg Boyle: Yeah, I, I think so, you know, and people kind of go, why do you keep track? I started to do it, it, it happened at a very particular historic moment where I started to count, you know, and it became clear, you know, like at one point I had, I, I buried eight kids in a three week period in my parish. And, and, and I remember there was a woman, a graphic artist named Karen Toshima, who was killed in Westwood, which is near UCLA, where people would go for dinner and movies. And she got caught in some gang crossfire. Well, my gosh, you know, the next day, detectives were taken from all these other cases, and they were applied to this case. More police were pumped into, you know, the Westwood area. And a huge reward was offered for information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of the person who did this. And that was at a time when I was burying eight kids in a three week period. And then it became clear to me that one life lost in Westwood was worth more than eight lives lost in Boyle Heights. 

So, then I started keep track: this is the 30th kid I've buried. This is the 150th kid. So, and so I always have, and I have a little book that I use on kind of graveside thing and, and then the back pages are just filled with all the, the names. And, so that mattered, you know, that, that, you know, no lives are worth less than other lives. And so how do you stand against forgetting that we belong to each other and that, that there are no exceptions, to that?

Adam Davis: So I want to ask you a little bit about, belonging gone right. And in a way, maybe one way to get there is I told you the name of this series is Fear and Belonging, and the more I read your books and listened to you online, the more I thought, I got worried, because I was like, he's, he's pretty good at belonging. I'm a little worried about the fear part.

Father Greg Boyle: Well, I, you know, I think that fear is sort of, indicates, sort of, something. And, you know, I was talking to a friend who works with, the unhoused in Virginia, and she's been doing this for many years. And she said, you know, "Homeless people don't become homeless because they run out of money. They become homeless because they run out of relationships."

And so, that's kind of the anchor of, of fear that, It indicates that, that there's kind of a lack of relational wholeness. And that people kind of fall into fear, when they're not connected. So it's a kind of a dissociative cave, you know. And what coaxes people out of that cave is, I would say, is, is cherishing love. 

And so, you know, I always, people always ask me why I joined the Jesuits, you know, and, and I used to always give the same answer, I would say, well, because, you know, they taught me, and I found them to be hilarious and prophetic. And that was a combo burger that, that made me want to say, yeah, I'll have what they're having. But now, you know, fifty years later, you know, I connect it to kind of discipleship, which is the mark of authenticity there is joy and fearlessness. And so fearlessness is kind of this diving into connection with people and knowing that separation is an illusion.

And that we're all kind of joined at the hip if we, if we can just kind of step aside from. How delusional it is to think that there is an us and a them. So, so I don't really spend that much time with fear. Actually, because I think it's, you know, it's really about fearlessness. That's anchored in people feeling, inhabiting their own dignity and nobility.

So, you know, I always listen to, like, we have eight tours a day at our headquarters in Los Angeles, in Chinatown. And, you know, and I always ear hustle, you know, usually when I'm going to the restroom, and I hear the little, I never give the tours, but the homies are giving the tours. And, and I remember a homegirl said, you know, "Here at Homeboy, we laugh from the stomach." Which everybody understands, at least at Homeboy we understand, because it's about joy. There's nothing kind of, on the surface about it. Andthen the other day I heard a homie say, " Here at Homeboy," they always begin the sentence with, "Here at Homeboy," you know, If you reach out a hand, a million hands come back at ya." And then the third one, again, I, I, I'm a geezer, so I make a lot of trips to the restroom. And, and, so I ear hustle, and, this guy said, " Here at Homeboy, you know, if you're going through it, if you're really struggling with something, they don't tell you go into that room and work it out. They're in the room with you." Which I thought was beautiful, you know. 

So it's all about. You keep fear at bay, if, if you can, if you're connected to people. And so relational wholeness is the, is the key. You know, the Buddhists say, "Oh, nobly born, remember who you really are." So homies, who, especially nowadays, in the state of California anyway, a lot of folks who never thought they'd ever, you know, come home from prison, have been released because a lot of changes in laws. And so they will say things like, you know, "I'm used to being watched, but I'm not used to being seen." So you want people to be truly greeted and people brighten when you walk through the door. Because they know what it means to have chosen to do so. And, and so you create a place that's safe, where people can be seen, and then they can be cherished.

And so if it's true that a traumatized person is likely to cause trauma, it has to be equally true that a cherished person is, going to be able to find their way to the joy there is in cherishing themselves and others. So it, it dispels fear, for sure. But it replaces it with the same authenticity that we might say in other circles about discipleship. Joy and fearlessness. Because the fearlessness is really about a muscular hope and a, and a sturdy kind of resilience where people can leave us after 18 months. And the world will throw at them what it will, but, but this time they won't be toppled.

Adam Davis: Can I ask you concretely, what is truly greeting someone look like?

Father Greg Boyle: Truly greeting? Yeah, you know, I don't know what it is, you know, kinship and kindness and tenderness is kind of atmospheric at homeboy, you know. People always talk about the secret sauce. A homie was, was trying to explain to somebody what happens there, and he goes, "I don't know what it is, but it's like an aroma."

And, but if you go there, and I see people wearing homeboy swag, so maybe you've actually been there. And, there, I don't know how to explain it. You, people walk in the door. And our program is not for those who need help, it's only for those who want it. So you do have to walk through the door. I mean, there's kind of no way around that.

But, but you watch, I, I've had, I had my office when we moved there in 2008, you know, I kind of wanted to be able to see whoever walks through those front doors. And it comes in handy because I'll see a gang member who I don't know, but I can see he's like this, he's looking around, who's here, am I safe? You know, and you make eye contact and you go, "Hey, you know, it's good to see you. I'm glad you're here." Somehow, you're able, Everybody does that. Everybody is giving a dose of, of, you know, holding the mirror up and telling, returning people to themselves. I mean, we're allergic to that notion of hold the bar up and ask people to measure up.

You just want to tell people the truth, that they're exactly right. And that they couldn't be one bit better. Once people know that truth, they become that truth, they inhabit that truth. But that's the intentionality, is to brighten. Choose to brighten. Which is how, you know, that's where, where the joy is.

Adam Davis: The aroma. The aroma seems important, and I want to, I want to stay there a little more, even if it, even if there's something beautiful about understanding it as kind of the climate or the fabric, but then you talked about eye contact and how important it was for you to. Not only see the people coming in, but probably for them to know that you're seeing each other. And I guess I want to, I want to ask more about that aroma. I'm not asking for a recipe, but on the way to a recipe, what else is happening there that feels like it contributes to it being such a transformed and unique space? 

Father Greg Boyle: Well, it, you know, I was, At the LA times Festival of Books, and I was on a panel with a rabbi and a, columnist from the LA Times. And, I don't know, we were talking about whatever the heck we were talking about. It was a big auditorium, and at one point I said, you know, "There are kind of two unwavering principles that we embrace at Homeboy. And one is everybody's unshakably good, there are no exceptions. And two, we belong to each other, no exceptions."

And then I said, "Now do I believe that all our vexing complex social dilemma would just disappear if we embrace those two principles? Yes. I do." But I think your laughter was different than theirs. They roared with laughter, and I was kind of startled by it. And then when it subsided, I said, "Yes, I do." And yes, I do.

And I think that's kind of the principle there, because keep in mind, it's Black, brown, Asian, You know, everybody is working with multiple, multiple enemies. And, and so there we are all together. And it's more home than home. 

A homie said to me the other day, "You know the part I love the most about Homeboy?" I said, "What?" "The home part." I said, "Well yeah, that's exactly, that's the aroma." You know. Yeah. Although I was thinking lately the aroma, I had a homie in my office the other day and oh my god, he had been hot boxing it or something. And I said, I looked at him and he hugged me and I said, wow, if, if they drug test me right now, I may not pass just because I've been in your vicinity.

So the, the aroma is tenderness and it's a kind of an insistence that love, you know, can stay in the ether and in your head and maybe it falls into your heart and with any luck it makes its way to your feet. But tenderness is connective tissue, you know, it's... 

So lately I've been saying "cherishing" more than, like my publisher, because I'm writing a book. And so I was calling it Cherished Belonging. And he goes, "No," you know, cherished is, my editor. "Eh, it's just, it's too squishy. And how about just belonging?" So then I went to Amazon and I looked it up and, punched in "belonging." They're just, first page, there are thirty-six titles called Belonging. And I went, "No, because cherished, cherishing is love fully engaged. And cherishing is tenderness and action. And cherishing is love with its sleeves rolled up. So, no, I want, I want it to be cherished belonging. So he relented. 

But I think that's kind of important because it's a way of being, you know, and a way of seeing people. And a way of kind of zeroing in on some kind of precious soulful sense of this person who's standing right in front of you. So, you know, in God talk, you know, you would kind of see, you know, Isaiah having God say just " You are precious in my eyes and I love you." And that's the truth of who you are. And, and then equally we meet people and you see the precious soulful core of a person. And, and then it doesn't matter. Behavior doesn't matter. Your performance doesn't matter. That's who you are. And, and, and this is a population who come, walks through our doors feeling that they are in fact everything that's wrong with them. And so how do you dispel that? 

How do you get to a place where, where, you know, homey finished his 18 months the other day, Adrian, and, you know, and he hugged me and he thanked me and he was leaving us after 18 months. And I said, "You're the best." And he looked at him and he goes, "You know, I'm starting to believe it." And that's kind of what you hope for. Healing ends in the graveyard, but, but there is a kind of a, an essential foundational healing that, that we, that we kind of embrace at Homeboy. 

Before we never had that. People stayed there, you know, because it was more home than home, and they didn't want to leave, but we couldn't bring in more people. It wasn't fiscally very sound. So people had to leave, and we wanted to encourage them. You know, what's your imagination saying? Well, I wanna, I'd like to do that. Okay, let's train you to do that. So that they would leave, you know. And so that you could allow more people to come in. 

But then we had to decide, you know, a year is too short. Two years was too long, so we arrived at 18 months and then, after the fact, we kind of discovered that 18 months is the amount of time for an infant to attach to the caregiver. And so we kind of, well, yeah, this is about attachment repair. That everyone who walks through our door comes with a disorganized attachment. You know, mom was either frightened or frightening. And you can't calm yourself down if you've never been soothed. And so, 18 months kind of does it. You know, it's essential, it's foundational. It's not once and for all, and it doesn't end at 18 months. But, that's kind of the idea. 

Adam Davis: This may, I hope this question makes sense. And it's a question related to the appreciative sounds that some of you are making in response to some of your comments about wholeness and about seeing each other. And also the word, remember you used earlier. And like, I'm thinking about how, when you say this and when I read it from you, I go, yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I make the same sound. That sort of affirmative sound that feels really good. But then sometimes when I'm going through my day, it's very hard to be tender towards anyone, let alone someone who's pissed me off for some reason or done something that I think is terrible. So I want to ask about that.

Father Greg Boyle: Yeah, well, I think that, you know, there's a misconception, you know, and, and, and unfortunately it happens a lot in kind of Christian circles where they go with, you know, a homie wrote me and he said, a pastor would had, had, was going to show a movie and he wrote him and he said, "Can you please bring some people who are unsaved?" And so that's kind of the notion. There's a kind of a once-and-for-all-ness to how we see things. Even in our own daily practice, so you may be connected in the morning, you know, like, like your own rendezvous. And whatever that means, where you breathe in and you breathe out and you prepare for your day. Whether that's in some kind of spiritual thing or just kind of calming yourself down. And then you go, "yeah, I'm good to go." And then, you encounter, you know, your day and people who are annoying you. So, it's like, a lot of the homies are in recovery, and so they'll say "one day at a time," and I'll go, "no, that's way too long," you know. That it should be with every breath you take. That you, you choose to cherish with every breath you take.

I was in New York recently and I, I like to go on my little morning walk and and there were two construction workers who were quite loud. One was, in any case, in very New York and, and he was trying to convince the other guy of this coffee that he liked. And it was encouraging the other guy with some force, this is the coffee you should drink. And he says, "Freshly. Grounded Turkish coffee." And so I'm walking past in case anybody in earshot might have missed this. "Freshly," he says it again, "Grounded Turkish coffee." And I walked past and I went, "There it is: It's my mantra for the day." And it's actually it's actually been for a while. And the mantra is "freshly grounded."

Because you think that you are grounded once and for all. You think that you are awakened once and for all. But the practice, what gets habituated, in your own prayer, in your own meditation, in your own stillness, is to be freshly grounded. 

So, you know, so I was at the office Monday. And, you know, I parked my car, and I'm walking, and there are, we have 500 gang members who work there. And they're all, before the day begins, they're all out in front, you know. And, so, I brace myself, because you want to be attentive to every single one, and they're always hugging you, and, and you don't want to leave anybody out. And my mantra, walking from my car to our headquarters was, "Freshly grounded. Freshly grounded." But I think that's where those things come because then you're, there's a habituated sensitivity to how you are present to people. And it also dispels a notion of, like burnout. 

I kind of don't believe in burnout. You know, and, and I had a, somebody who wrote a book on self care and she, she sent it to me, and "please blurb it," and, and I did, but I, I kinda don't believe in it. Because, like, our senior staff, we have about 150 senior staff. 70 percent of them are homies and homegirls, you know, who come, who went through the program. Now they run the place. But, you know, they would come to me, and they'd go, "Oh my god, I just, I, I don't know. I, I think I might need two months off or something, because, I guess, you know, I'm just too compassionate." And they go, yeah. Here's what I think's happened. I, I think you've allowed it to become about you. And it can't be about you. And so, when it's about you, it's going to be about fixing, saving, rescuing. Can't be.

But. It's like in Houston, many years ago, I gave a talk afterwards, I ran into a homie, all tatted down, now he's working with gang members. And he kind of pleaded with me, and he said, "How do you reach them?" And I found myself saying, you know, "For starters, stop trying to reach them. Can you be reached by them? Can you receive who they are? Can you allow your heart to be altered by them?" Because that's a shift that turns stuff on its head, it seems to me. Then that is eternally replenishing. And then it's a part of your practice to be freshly grounded, to receive people. Today I'm going to be reached by so many people. As opposed to the, the depleting thing that tries to fix people, rescue people. Save people. 

So that's where the joy is, you know. You don't go to the margins to make a difference. You go to the margins so that the folks at the margins make you different. And that feels passive or whatever it might feel like, but that's the, the, the terrain we're-- in an exquisitely mutual way, people are able to inhabit their own dignity and nobility. And, and of course, so nobody burns out in that because you can't wait to park your car and walk the three blocks and be freshly grounded to be loving and attentive to people.

Adam Davis: You're listening to The Detour with father Greg Boyle.

It's interesting, when you were talking about freshly grounded Turkish coffee, in the New York with the New York sound, I was hearing it in a Chicago sound, which is where I'm from. And I was also thinking about. So, previous jobs I had were working with young people involved in the juvenile justice system.

And I was thinking actually they would hear "freshly grounded" and think of it very differently. Like they'd all been freshly grounded for six months and they were going to be freshly grounded again for another six months. And so, and I'm not saying that for the pun, I'm saying that because I think that's, that's why I'm asking a little bit about the aroma and I'm thinking a little bit about the 18 months.

You have people with a deep experience. I mean, we were talking to Enrique, you were talking with Enrique backstage who, who essentially had been grounded for 21 years. I hope it's okay to say that Enrique and then to shift, to think about freshly grounded in the way you're talking about feels like This is, this is big transformative stuff, and 18 months is a short period of time.

How to, how to try to work on that shift? 

Father Greg Boyle: Yeah, well, you know, I think, I don't know. I mean, you know, you want to be able to somehow find the ground of your being. You want to find the thing that nobody can take from you. And. And that's the core, the center. I remember I was in Portland when I found out that this homie named Moreno was killed,and the kid who was with him when he was killed was blowing up my cell phone, and he was just screaming and crying and saying, "They just killed Moreno." And if any of you have read a book called Tattoos on the Heart, you know, there's like a kid in there who, who never got excited about anything, and I remember I would call him in the projects and I'd say, "Hey, what are you doing?"

He goes, "Just right here, blasé-ing it." Now, as an English major, I didn't think, didn't know you could actually do that to that word.And, but, you know, he has, it came from the, just a horrible, horrible, torturous childhood and parenting, and, Anyway, he went to, probation camp's juvenile hall, and he ended up going to a suitable placement, and, and, and he called me and he said, "Hey, kidnap me."

And he was in Orange County in a, a placement. And, and, so he needed me to get him clothes. Cause he was in school for the very first time. He had been like a elementary school dropout. So now he was in school. So, I talked to the people at this group home. And so I, I went and picked him up on a Saturday. We went to the mall to go get clothes, you know.

So, you know, I was saying, "Well, how's school?" And he, well, he was blasé-ing it, you know, and, you know. And, "There must be subjects you like, you know. What about English?" "Hate it." " How about history?" "Can't stand it." " What about math?" "The worst." " There must be something you like. Do you have a, do you have a science?"

"Oh my, biology, that's the bomb right there." And he got so out of body excited. And he said, "Check this out, on Monday we're digesting a frog." And I nearly drove into oncoming traffic, and I said, "Actually it's dissecting a frog." And he goes, "Whatever. Monday, Monday, we're fucking with a frog."

Well, his brother, six months before he was killed, before Moreno was killed, had also been killed. And, I remember he came back to the office finally after I had done the funeral, and, and a week had passed, probably. And, so I called him into my office just to see how he was doing. And, and he said, you know, " Death is a punk." And I've always loved that, cause I always thought, "Yeah, that's it." Cause the idea is find the thing that nobody can touch. That no bullet can pierce.

Yeah, death is a punk. And so, I was in Portland when I found out that Moreno had been killed. And I flew home and I remember we have morning meeting. And people were sobbing because he was so beloved. And One of the reasons was who he was, but also because he was undocumented. He was also one of those kids who had come to the United States in his mother's arms. I spoke better Spanish than he did. And so he couldn't really leave. He was kind of with us for a long time. So he was so beloved. But I remember telling the gathered who were sobbing, you know, I said, I told him that Moreno said when his brother was killed, "death is a punk." So, everybody needs to compile the fates, the list of the fates worse than death. Which is not belonging. Which is not being connected. To have no knowledge of flourishing joy and cherished connection. And, and to know the, the things that are more powerful than death. Which is our corporate longing that, that we be one. So, anyway, being grounded is knowing the thing that nobody can touch.

And, and that, that renders death such a punk.

Adam Davis: First of all, I want to say, that outtake of breath, which I think all of us are feeling is also clearly part of the aroma. There's something going on while you're talking that, we're all feeling stuff that's hard to put into words, and I want to thank you for that. And then I want to follow that by asking probably another question that actually has a little bit to do with math, since you were bringing up subjects that many of us don't like.

as you were talking about Moreno, I was thinking, even tonight, but also in your books, and I'm sure far beyond the books, you seem to be in real deep relationship with thousands of people. And this strikes me as a challenge for most of us, like a math challenge. And I've read about numbers that are the typical number for most of us to have relationships with. It's usually like, maybe we can have 150 people in our lives. How to, it's a question about the limits of the sense of kinship or belonging or relationship. How to keep expanding without giving up the depth that seems to be so much a part of these relationships. 

Father Greg Boyle: Well, you know, I, I, I'm grateful that I can text, I, you know, I, cause I, I find that, So I just do it thousands and thousands of texts.

And sometimes I do texting roulette, you know, where I go, and I go, Oh, hey, how's the baby? You know, are you sleeping through the night? How's that new job? You know, and, whatever. 

I, I got a text, you know, the other day where, from a gang member I hadn't heard from in a long time, and he said, "I heard that you died. And So I'm texting to see if it's true." so I wrote him back: "I'm texting from heaven. The cell service is amazing." 

But just today, you know, you're just you're doing all this stuff and people are You know people want everything, you know, they want you to baptize their kids and it's sweet You know if there's such a thing as microaggressions, well texting can be micro affirmations You know where you're it's it's you're mindful of of somebody where you're you're saying Yeah, you know and you send them I do kind of a meme ministry Where I, you know, you send out crazy every day I send out there's several hundreds, I mean, so I picked the crazy meme for the day that I'm gonna, "How are you doing?" "I'm good." And it's, there was some guy golfing and he falls into the water. I don't, that was what I had today, you know, I don't even golf, but, But so, you know, you, you want to, cause people just, You know, all people want is for you to notice. And so in my own kind of spirituality, you notice the notice of God, and then you become the notice of God in the world. And so, you're always noticing. 

You know, the great poet Mary Oliver, who died at 83, and before she died, she kind of did this accounting. These are the three things I've learned in my 83 years of living. And she was a She was wonderful, I love her poetry and I heard, I've heard her a couple of times in, in concert or where she does readings, you know. But she was kind of, a little bit cantankerous, you know. There are the three things I've learned. Pay attention. Be astonished. Share your astonishment. And I think that's pretty good, you know. But in the end, it's, what's the delivery system of hope? Loving, caring, adults who pay attention. So the more you can pay attention, but it's also, it's always propelling you out of yourself, you know.

I don't believe there's such a thing as, I don't really do sin, I don't do evil, I don't, I just don't do that stuff. I think it's unsophisticated. And I don't even believe that people are selfish. I just believe That there are two things that keep us quite miserable and that's our self absorption and then a kind of a notch above that is our self assertion. And because we're always worried about me, what's going to happen to me, I don't know what's going to happen to me today. Yeah, that will keep you stuck. 

But the texting kind of thing, because I'm, you know, you're, you're not there all the time with a thousand people, but you can be actually. Where you're just saying, "thinking of you, Hey, you know, like, I was there in my office Monday. I can't tell you," and I really mean these things, you know. It made my whole day to see you. Or to wave at you as you walked past my office. Like, I'm not sure he knew that I noticed that he was staring at me. You know, and then I recall that, and I go, That was so good, just to wave at you. You know, this is a big ol bad gang member who spent 30 years in prison. So, you know, so I don't know.

So you want to be able to, it's the thing, it's the antidote that just pulls you out of yourself. Because that's our default setting, which is self absorption. But the thing that pulls you out is just to kind of have it be a part of your practice. Where you're gonna text somebody. And, and everybody has that kind of out of, I have that out of body experience, where a homie will, you know, I'm just thinking about you.

And we're human beings, it just does something to us to have, to have that level of, of connection. But to, but to be so anchored in that, as an intentionality, as a, as a, Saint Ignatius of Loyola talks about a modo de proceder, how to proceed in your life. So, so you want to be freshly grounded in that, you know, where you're just saying, how can I be other centered? Because I was reading a Tibetan kind of saying that said, "wherever you have received the most love, that is your home." And I kind of went, eh, I'm not so sure, you know. Because then you're not going to be there in that place. And then you have only one option, which is homesickness. And I just don't think that's true, because in the end, it's never about receiving love. And then once you discover that loving is your home, then you will never be homesick. And it's a, another way of finding the thing that nobody can touch. Because I can be in Portland far away from home and you can still, you know, just let love live through you.

But I could be wrong. 

Adam Davis: Thank you. That's what we needed. Clearly, laughter is also part of the aroma. It is so clear that talking about so much serious sadness and difficulty and being able to mingle it closely with hilarious Jesuits and other sources of laughter, I Healing and wholeness is what you, it seems like you were talking about, and those are big, ambitious words, and hope also, and you know, last few years, probably tough on, tough on the idea of wholeness.

We hear a lot about divides, healing seems, Like a kind of wholeness. We seem to talk about ourselves as broken. How to say these big words reflective of really large ambitions and, and have people come along, what do you see there that make healing and wholeness approachable, maybe especially in a moment like this.

Father Greg Boyle: Well, that's why I think it's so important to, to believe firmly that everybody's unshakably good and that we belong to each other. Because once you begin there, then you can roll up your sleeves. And then you can go, then there is no us and them, there's just us. You know, because the problem comes when, you know, when we demonize and otherize and dehumanize. And then that's the end of the discussion. I mean, I, I don't know how, how you get out of that. But if that's impossible, because everybody's unshakably good, and we belong to each other, then you go, well, how can you say that everybody's unshakably good? What about this guy, and this guy, and this person, and they did this? And then you go, yeah. It just, I mean, again, I know this from gang members. 

You know, I've never met an evil person. And then, then people might go, wow, but you've worked with gang members for 40 years, you know, people killed other people and who were violent or whatever, but it's like, yeah, I mean, but early on, I kind of, you know, that became so clear to me, you know, that damaged people will damage people. So, okay, let's try to heal the damaged. And. And then that becomes, then you, then you see the, the precious soulful core of, of the, of the other person. And, and then pretty soon there is no other. That's kind of an impossible concept. That I am you and you are me. And, you know, I, you are the other me and, you know, I am the other you.

I always think of Jesus who, who, saw this guy having seizures, and he and the whole crowd thinks he's a demon. So he literally demonizes the guy. But he has epilepsy. That's kind of, for me, that's this model of something, you know, where you kind of go, yeah, here's a pill. And, but that's what we do. End of discussion. Demon. The other side, the people who vote that way, you know. But the minute you kind of force yourself to say unshakably good, like the Buddhists will say essential goodness, basic goodness, I don't like that too much, you know, only because it, it's, there's too much wiggle room. It kind of hedges your bets. Well, he's basically good. You know, and that's why I say unshakable because you know, it's you begin at a place. 

So homie was in my office not long ago, Joseph. Gang member, heroin addicts, his father died of an overdose. He's almost three times died of a heroin overdose. He's doing well now. But we're having a conversation. I've known him since then-- I've known him for 40 years, when he was 10. And, been to prison. But anyway, we finish the conversation, he stands, and he says, "You know, I think life is just removing the blindfold." I said, "I think you're right. What do you see when the blindfold falls?" And he thinks for a second, he puts his hand right here, and he goes, " Goodness."

Well yes, that's the whole thing. But sometimes you can't see it, because you know, you're a malignant narcissist and a sociopath. I just invented that one out of my head right now. Still unshakably good, but you can't see the goodness. And so part of the idea of cherishing people It's pretty soon in doses that come from every person.

It's not just one person. And and then pretty soon they go, when you say to somebody, "You're the best." " Yeah, I'm starting to believe it." And that's what happens. And that you know, that mental anguish is real. And so it's hard for people to move in the direction of wholeness and health and well being. But that's why we're all called to be wholemakers. Not to heal people, because healing happens in a community. I don't heal, I've never healed anybody. I've never transformed a life. But I know that transformation happens there. Because it's a community that has room for everybody. And so Homeboy, you know, wants to be the front porch of the house everybody wants to live in. So it does what it does, but it also stands, it announces something. 

You know, as, as the Great John Lewis would say. We all live in the same house. He never said one day we might live in the same house. He says, "We all live in the same house." He doesn't say, well, some people live in the basement. But we still live in this. No. We all, it was, it's a declarative sentence. And I think that's as it should be.

Adam Davis: Father Greg Boyle is a Jesuit priest from Los Angeles, California, and the founder of Homeboy Industries, the world's largest gang intervention and rehabilitation program. You can find links to our guest's work in our show notes at OregonHumanities. org. The Detour is produced by Kieran Bond. Kyle Gilmer is our editor. I'm your host, Adam Davis. Ben Waterhouse, Karina Briski, and Alexandra Silvester are assistant producers. Thank you for listening. See you next time. 


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